French government negotiates to end fishing conflict

French government negotiates to end fishing conflictParis - French Farms and Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier said Thursday he was negotiating with other countries to obtain higher catch quotas in an effort to end a blockade of northern ports by French fishermen.

Barnier told RTL radio that he was working on exchanging quotas with other European countries to allow France's fishermen to catch more sole without surpassing EU-imposed quotas. French fishermen have already exhausted their quota for sole for 2009.

Barnier said that last year he had obtained an additional catch allowance of 400 tons of sole after negotiations with countries on the North Sea and eastern British Channel.

On Wednesday, Barnier offered fishermen an additional 4 million euros (5.3 million dollars) in direct aid and credit guarantees of 50 million euros to make up for financial losses caused by EU quotas. But the fishermen had insisted on being granted higher quotas.

French fishermen were to vote later Thursday whether to continue their blockade of the northern ports of Boulogne-sur-mer, Calais and Dunkirk. The blockade, which began on Tuesday, was suspended early Thursday pending the vote.

Daytime ferry service between Calais and the British port of Dover had resumed Thursday after being shut down for two days because of the blockade. (dpa)